alexandra blum
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Drawing notes - Dalston, London

As I have been drawing many people have stopped to find out what I am doing,
but also to tell me their memories, hopes and fears for the area. 
It feels as if the huge changes to the physical environment
have sensitised people living in the area to the space surrounding them
and opened up a flood of memories associated with particular spaces. 

Extracts from my notes are below:

24.4.09 - On site: Feels like virgin territory, as if real footsteps are yet to be taken on its surfaces,  as  if everything that happens now is behind the scenes, temporary, transitory, a secretive procedure.

17.12.09 - On site 'You need thermals.  If I'd the time I'd stand here with a board behind ya!  I'm 70 next birhtday, I've got bionic hips, a machine in here (taps his heart).  Sometimes I feel alright, but other times... then I think maybe I'll retire.  But then I go home and get nagged and change me mind.  Ha ha!'

5.4.09 - On site:
Is there anything left undocumented?  What would happen if something disappeared quietly, anonymously? No one knew it was there, no one ever went there; it existed then ceased to exist.


7.1.09 - Kingsland Road:
A man with very blue eyes and long grey hair, stopped to tell me the the Snooker Centre used to be the Plaza cinema. He used to pay 6d to go there on Saturdays.  All the girls walked up one side of the road, the boys on the other.   A little further south there was an Odeon on the corner.  After the Plaza it became Tangerine Recording Studios, he recorded a hit there in the 60s.  It was then a club, the Searchers played there.

24.1.09 - On site:
Cautiously moving through the silent labyrinth, half an hour left before Saturday closing time, newly compartmentalised space. Through a window, jump to a balcony, one plaster board delineated room to the next. Twisting wire from the ceiling.  No yellow way markers.

14.4.09 - On site 19th floor:
Renewed sense of urgency as the window frames were appearing, front left hand corner of each floor.  Sealing out the elements, the easy trip between scaffold platform, pre-baclony concrete ledge and interior space about to become impossible.

8.4.09 - Boleyn Road: Blazing sun in a side street, drawing the gap, once a row of independent high street shops and flats, now making way for the train line, in the interim revealing crumbling Georgian terraces and an expanse of pure space. After a few hours a lady with a bun comments that I'm still there, and marvels at how beautiful the development will be when it is finished, along with the new rose garden that will apparently cover the whole of the road we were standing in.  She felt however, this would encourage hobos.  Opposite us, she explained, the building used to be a hat factory, was now residential, but for people who paid neither rent nor council tax.  This was to be demolished and transformed.

15.4.09 - On site 19th floor:
Arsenal on the walls. An unlikely bridge, previously unnoticed, spanned in the distance - the Emirates roof. 'You should write 'rubbish' under that' commented an interested bricklayer as the word Arsenal appeared in the drawing.

9.6.09 -
 My friend tells me how she gave birth to her daughter in one of the old railway cottages in Roseberry Place, now flattened to make way for the new railway line.  They had decking, stretching from their garden over the unexpected wilderness of the previous railway cutting.


16.4.09 - Kingsland Road:
Raining, lightly at first, finally large, sporadic drops.  Sheltering underneath the edge of the awning, leaning on the one metere span of grille shuttering the phone card selling space. Finally a clear view of the SPUT graffiti opposite.  Several people arrive to open the booth, but they say I can stand on the other side, in front of the pound shop window, with which they are affiliated.  A 30cm x 1 metre board serves as the door when the card seller takes a break.


15.4.09 - On site: Balmy ground level a distant memory as wind roars through the 19th floor, forcing streams of water from overhead pipes, creating rivulets, running into streams and torrents over the rough concrete trays, plunging into the fragmented city beyond.  Wanted to be at the edge of the action, the point where the incoming tide of brick work meets the bare scaffold.

18.4.09 - On site 4th floor:  A human chain is formed to pass boards up two floors. Three men.  The First: ground floor with a collection of planks, passes them vertically, silently, one by one, through the hands of The Second, on the first floor, who, hand over hand in a continuous stream, propels them upwards, into the waiting hands of The Third, and in through a window.
  

25.4.09 - On site: Was going to duck under a horizontal bar of scaffolding, onto the wooden planks, still straddling the space below. But pulled back at the last minute, the gap was too wide - 20 floors of space shooting down beneath me.  Retreated, back to the concrete ledge.
 
14.1.09 - Lunchtime Wholsum Cafe: Discussion at the counter.  Another customer intrigued to know what the new station and development will be like.  She imagines entrances to the station spiralling downwards from Kingsland Road, into a cavernous hall.

14.2.09 - Kingsland High Street:  A preacher in flowing golden robes:  ".... Do press ups, make your shoulder strong, so you can make a difference, be innovative at work, write a new chapter in your contract...."
 
8.4.09 - Boleyn Road: The scaffolding man came by again with his mate, who stopped to find out what was going on, and was reliably informed that I had been there since October.  Isn't it easier to take a photo?

16.5.09 - On site, 12th Floor :  
Saturday, incredibly windy.  Drawing the banners about to take flight from the top of the library.  Later on, take a break, huddled in the only sheltered space, next to the lift shaft in the very centre of the room.

12.5.09 - On site:  
Further up, to the 19th floor.  Concrete slabs previously plunging headlong into the city, now tamed with railings, becoming quiet pools of contained space.

19.5.09 - On site :  19th floor semi clad with glass, quiet, becoming a shelter.  Space no-longer racing through its core, the city no-longer dragged in one side and forced out the other.  

11.11.08 - Ashwin Street :  
Speak to a man who looks at my drawing and the building site and says it's like a skeleton.  Feels as if Dalston's being torn apart.  Impenetrable facades crumbling, layer upon layer of space revealed.  

21.11.08 - En route to site:  
From Kingsland HIgh Street, I cut through Ashwin Street, still traffic free.  A million miles away from the frenetic pace of the main road, it seems hidden, unexpected, almost an oasis.

4.11.08 - Cafe Bliss at lunchtime:   
Still pouring with rain.  Gives me a reason to have apple pie and custard.  From the cafe window the site shrinks, it can almost be taken in with one glance.
 

14.4.09 - On site:   
From the 19th floor, saw Bill walking in Ashwin Street.  About to wave, then stopped, feeling invisible amongst the scaffolding. 

10.11.09 - On site:   
An interior staircase is blocked, climb the exterior ladders instead, zigzagging between each layer of scaffolding.  It's exposed, but less precarious than I'd imagined.
 

4.11.08 - On site:   
Noise increases and I am offered ear plugs, yellow cones to be rolled to a point with one hand.  They don't have much effect until they seem to expand in my ear. Instant peace!
 

23.4.09 - On site:   
Climb an unfamiliar staircase, emerge into brilliant whiteness.  The glaring intensity increases in a shower room, further, a boiler, entrails drifting onto the floor. Then a door way, broken rubble on the threshold, over which two brown boards.  Stepping through, wind almost knocks me over, whistling from one side of the expanse to the other, the space transformed, alive, open, interconnected, exhilarating.  
 
15.2.09:   Chatting to one of the builders, who lists the other buidlings he has worked on around London.  He's already off to work on another new site next week...
 
9.9.10: 17th floor the Collins' flat   Ben:  ‘Before we moved in, a site manager noticed scratches on the window.  Each one had to be replaced, each one carried down, it took three men an hour per sheet, they’re incredibly heavy.  Efficient though, it’s really warm up here...Shall I leave my bag there?  Will there be any foreground?'

29.9.10: 18th floor the Collins' flat   
 I was apprehensive about showing Ben and Jane the drawings from their bedroom, but they didn’t object to the intrusion.  Jane told me how her current book was the only personal ever-changing item next to her bedside. ‘....it’s one of life’s great pleasures, reading in bed and, since retirement, even in the morning.’
© 2012 Alexandra Blum